Sick and Tired? Trigger Health and Relaxation in a Few Pressure Points

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The phrase sick and tired is used all the time. Want to feel better with just a few pressure points?

Think about it…

Who doesn’t love a good foot rub? It’s profoundly relaxing whether you are giving or receiving.

However, to get the most out of it, try stimulating the foot pressure points that tap into your body’s healing power.

Reflexology is an ancient healing practice that involves systematically applying pressure to special areas of the feet, to stimulate a response.

Reflexology also works through your hands and ears too.


Interested in cleaning your chakra energy flow?

Practitioners use reflexology to find and clear blockages. The seven physical chakras of the body are thought of as the centers for focus, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy.

When the chakras are strong, balanced, and flowing, there is an abundance of energy from which to draw healing.

As with many holistic medicine methods, reflexology is an ancient practice.

Evidence exists that the stimulation of foot pressure points spans thousands of years. Statues of Buddha found in Asia bear ancient reflexology symbols.

Furthermore, a 3,000-year-old text on health and disease introduces a chapter on a method of examining the foot. Translation makes it clear that this is a reference to the practices of reflexology.

Finally, in an Egyptian tomb that dates to 2330 BC, there is a pictograph of foot pressure points.

Egyptian tomb

Image CC0 via Wikimedia Commons

How Reflexology Is Different from Acupressure

If you think reflexology sounds like acupressure or acupuncture, you’re not entirely wrong.

The three practices are similar in that they theorize an influence on your body’s vital energy flow by stimulating highly specific areas on the body.

However, there are fundamental differences between them.

Take a look:

First, acupuncture and acupressure points don’t always match the pressure points we use in reflexology.

Acupressure divides the entire body into meridians of energy. These thin lines run from head to toes slicing through the length of your body.

There are over 800 pressure points along the meridian lines. Only 30 of these spots are on the ears, feet, and hands.

There’s only a single meridian point on the soles of your feet, and one found in the crease behind your outer ear.

In contrast, reflexology maps the entire human body on the soles of the feet, the hands, and ears.


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How Science Backs It up

Modern reflexology began in the early 20th Century when William H. Fitzgerald, MD — the father of reflexology — wrote about zones that extend the length of your body and terminate in the soles of your feet.

He found that by applying pressure to the foot pressure points zone corresponding to an injury provided pain relief through minor surgeries.

Since that time, the practice of reflexology has been the subject of many studies

Let’s dive in:

A study found that some patients suffering from low back pain had better pain management after they underwent reflexology as a companion treatment.

Another study followed migraine headache patients who were sent to a physiotherapist for reflexology treatments.

After six months the study found that:

  • 55 percent had relief of symptoms
  • 23 percent had no recurrence
  • 11 percent quit taking medicine

A 1999 study found that reflexology reduces stress levels immediately.

Researchers found that stimulation of these pressure points decreases blood pressure, lowers resting heart rate, and decreases the respiration rate of patients receiving just two or three 5-minute foot massages using reflexology.

Medical disclaimer:

We strive to provide relevant, well-researched information. However, this article doesn’t take the place of medical advice.


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Where They Are and What They Do

Energy lines or channels run through the body. Any blocked energy flow in a zone affects the organs and systems that correspond with the foot pressure points.

This method of dividing the body into energy channels is thousands of years old. And it is also the underlying principle of acupressure and acupuncture.

The meridians of our pressure points relate to different systems of energy flow.

foot infographic

Though zones and meridians exist throughout the body including the hands and the feet reflexology concentrates on the body map found in the feet

After a while, you will no longer see a person’s feet. Instead, you will see their whole body mirrored in the feet.

For example:

When you see pail inner aspect of the arch you’ll recognize digestive issues. Or you’ll notice puffiness in the center of the arch as a possible bladder or kidney sign.

Here are 16 of the most prominent pressure points or zones

  • 1Tips of your toes: Brain and cognitive function
  • 2Center of the great toe pad: The pituitary gland
  • 3Underneath each toe pad: Teeth and sinuses
  • 4Outer aspect of the great toe: Nose
  • 5The inner aspect of the great toe: Throat
  • 6Underneath the great toe pad: Upper back trapezius muscle
  • 7The proximal aspect of the second and third toe underneath the pad: Eyes
  • 8The proximal aspect of the fourth and fifth toe underneath the pad: Ears
  • 9Ball of the feet: Heart, lungs, and chest
  • 10Ascending arch: Spleen and gallbladder
  • 11Arch: Kidney, stomach, and pancreas
  • 12Descending arch: Small intestine, colon, appendix, rectum, and adrenals
  • 13The inner aspect of feet: Back muscles and spine
  • 14Outer aspect of feet: Arm and hands
  • 15Proximal to heel: Sciatic nerve
  • 16Heel: Bladder, sciatic nerve, and lower back

DIY Guide to Reflexology: Pressure Points

Whether you want to learn self-reflexology or you aim to help a loved one or client, the following step-by-step instructions will help you solve an array of problems.


Stop Nausea by activating these pressure points

Patients receiving drugs like chemotherapy often struggle with side effects like nausea. Non-chemical relaxing methods are helpful in relieving queasiness.

This is also helpful in the first trimester of pregnancy. However, there is no guarantee of safety later in pregnancy.

One study was able to determine that reflexology helped relieve nausea, vomiting, and fatigue in breast cancer patients.

How it’s done:

To start with, cleanse the feet of your recipient. Next, warm up the joints of the feet by rotating them gently.

During the reflexology treatment, use one hand to support the foot of the patient.

Finally, using the caterpillar technique with the thumb, apply pressure to areas that correspond with the organs of the gastrointestinal and urinary systems.

Each foot should take around five minutes to complete. This technique eases tummy aches and aids in digestion.


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Press here to sleep like a baby

Reflexology is a component of many popular infant sleep training methods.

By thoroughly and systematically relaxing your baby’s muscles prior to bedtime, you increase the chances they will sleep through the night with no interruptions.

Did you know? The same techniques work on grown-ups too.

Using the self-reflexology method described below you can ease your body into a sleep-ready state of relaxation.

Here’s how to do it:

To begin, start by relaxing your feet — one at a time — using a simple relaxation technique. To do this, squeeze your feet lightly as you move up and down your foot from toes to heels.

The next step involves walking your thumb in a caterpillar motion, inching it lengthwise from the base of your heel to the tip of each toe.

Finally, in order, press these reflex points using the edge of your thumb or the tip of your pointer:

  • 1Top of each toe
  • 2The center of your big toe
  • 3Outer edge of your big toe
  • 4Base of the big toe
  • 5Ridge of your toes
  • 6Ball of foot
  • 7Solar plexus, which is under the ball of the foot in the center

Repeat the sequence again, finishing by pressing your thumb into the solar plexus for several seconds.

This video explains how to perform the sequence on the tiny toes of your little ones.

Try this maneuver to relieve headache pain

According to some migraine experts, your headache may be caused by blocked energy flow through the Qi.


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How it works:

For migraines, apply pressure to the inner aspect of the large toe — where touches the second toe.

Next, you’ll want to massage the area using your thumb to apply pressure in a caterpillar motion. Then rub it from side-to-side. Always start at the tip of your big toe, working back to the foot.

Now, at the base, press and release your thumb several times.

For best results, continue to massage the points for 1-minute. This smoothes the flow of Qi and relieves your headache.

Boost your immune system with these moves

Reflexology inforgraphic

At the center of your immune health is your lymphatic system. Made up of glands and vessels, this system fights infection and inflammation all over your body.

Reflexology therapy stimulates the lymphatics to strengthen the immune system.

Do this to activate your immune system

Holding the foot with one hand, use the index finger of the opposite hand and “walk” from the base of toes down to the ankle.

Stay in the areas between the metatarsal bones of the foot. Repeat this twice for each foot.

Afterward, use the right thumb and “walk” in three circular rows from the inner ankle around the heel to the outer ankle.

Repeat this route traveling one-step away from the previous row each time.


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Applying pressure to lower pressure

To treat hypertension, you’ll want to concentrate on massaging the pressure points in your feet corresponding to your heart and anterior chest.

Where are they located?

You’ll find these points between the toes and ball of your foot.


Image via: Pixabay

Do it like this:

Start off by massaging under the great toe to the base. Using your thumb, inch across to the outer edge of the foot.

Afterward, you’ll want to massage the heart pressure points located on the left foot.

This strengthens and regulates the heart muscle while it stimulates the diaphragm to deepen breathing, thus bringing in more oxygen.

Finally, stimulate the pressure points or reflexes that match the thyroid and parathyroid glands. Find these points at the top of the arches. This helps flush extra fluid from the body.

Anxious? It may be helpful to massage the spinal reflex. This zone runs down the inner aspect of both soles.

foot relaxing

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Banish period pain by rubbing this Area

A study found that reflexology stimulating 15 specific points over a 2-day span, relieved period pain at least as well as ibuprofen.

Massage here:

  • Solar plexus
  • Digestive organs including liver, spleen, and the kidneys,
  • Pelvic area
  • Pituitary area
  • Sinuses
  • Area matching upper and lower extremities
  • Spinal cord
  • Lungs
  • Chest area
  • Back and waist
  • Ovaries
  • Uterus
  • Fallopian tubes

period pain

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Weird Sensations

As you become more experienced, you’ll notice changes in the texture of the feet. These changes will alert you to underlying conditions.

For example:

Crunchy textured deposits feel like tiny sand or crystals underneath the skin. This signals mineral build-up or blockages in the corresponding area.

Air bubbles or a popping sensation under the skin indicates congestion, stagnation, or blocked energy.

Weird Sensations

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Hey, that hurts!

Sometimes clients experience soreness or pain. Often, this pain or sensitivity is felt only fleetingly. However, it’s an indication there is an imbalance or an energy blockage in that area of the body.

Though, it’s not always a bad sign.

For instance:

Pain in the gallbladder’s reflex zone doesn’t necessarily mean that the organ is in trouble. Sometimes, it indicates leftover scar tissue. It may mean the energy flow to that area needs balancing.

Accordingly, it might mean that your client is eating too many fatty foods and putting their gallbladder at risk.

that hurts

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Design a Spa-Like Reflexology Experience

We all know some tips and tricks to manage stress when things get difficult. Reflexology takes recipients to the height of relaxation and stress-relieving.

Equally important, is the mood you set using music and other environmental aids.

Fortunately, it is easy to design a spa-like experience, whether you are treating yourself or another.


Follow this advice:

Set the Mood with Music

Did you know that scientists identified the most relaxing sound on earth?

It’s true.

In fact, they made a playlist of the top 10 songs they found to be most relaxing — scientifically.

Sound therapy is a popular way of relaxing and restoring well-being. Over the centuries, countless cultures played music to reduce stress and improve overall health.

Now, neuroscientists from England say that certain tunes give you an edge when it comes to finding that peaceful, easy feeling. No worries, The Eagles are NOT on the list.

The study participants completed stressful tasks while sensors measured their anxiety, brain activity, and vital signs.

According to Mindlab International, conductors of the study, one song brought about more relaxation than other tunes.

Name that tune:

Subsequent studies continue to find that instrumental song, “Weightless,” reduces stress in over 65 percent of participants.

Let’s look a little deeper:

In the age of overstimulation, the constant din of pings and dings sends signals to your brain that it’s time to stress. Music removes some of that pressure.

Weightless song —  and others on our list — are the product of sound engineering.

What does this have to do with reflexology?

We’re glad you asked. Relaxation quells apprehension and helps your body better receive stimulation therapy.

Other songs to set the mood:

Mood with Music

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Warming things up

Using a warm towel to prepare the feet is a relaxing technique. Also, the warmth increases blood flow to the feet since heat dilates blood vessels.

You can also warm up like this:

Warming things up

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Massage oil

In her book, Reflexology Plain and Simple, Sonia Jones, ND, states that massage oils or lotions are not recommended for reflexology.

Slippery skin makes it difficult to apply the pressure necessary to maintain good technique. Rather, you should use powder.

However, talcum powder can damage the lungs when inhaled. Use cornstarch, corn flour, or arrowroot powder, instead.

Why it works:

Think of how a gymnast uses powder to allow a strong grip while keeping the surface of the uneven bars smooth.

Image CC2.0 via Flickr

When reflexology is performed on hands and feet that have been lightly dusted with powder, you keep a good grip and better control.

It’s important to maintain contact with the zone whenever you apply pressure.

After reflexology is complete, feel free to massage the feet or hands using a little coconut oil or almond oil. Mix in some essential oils and massage a few minutes longer for an extra treat.

Essential oils for Aromatherapy

While you shouldn’t use oils on feet during reflexology, you can apply essential oils at the end of a session or use them in a diffuser as aromatherapy.

Warming essential oils in a burner will create a healing space for you to work in.

essential oils

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The scents created from essential oils are understood to be healing.

As well, inhaling a few of the oils plays an important part in the healing process. Essential oils have a direct effect on the brain via the nose membranes, blood vessels, and nerves.

Essential oils come in three categories, known as notes.

The top notes are oils that are generally light and are the most stimulating an energizing of the oils. Their quality is intense and they evaporate quickly.  

Some examples are:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppermint
  • Lemon

The middle notes smell strong and potent. However, they are not as stimulating as the top notes.

Middle notes include:

  • Tea tree
  • Rosemary
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile

The base notes linger a lot longer than the other two. They evaporate slowly. These are rich full-bodied and heavy scents.

In a blend, you’ll detect the aroma of the bass notes after the two others wear off. The most common base notes are clove and Sandalwood.


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Using topical oils as after-treatment

Essential oils are distilled from plants using steam. Therefore, they are highly concentrated and very strong.

For this reason, they must be diluted in what is known as a carrier oil.

Common carrier oils include:

  • Coconut oil
  • Cocoa butter
  • Olive oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Almond oil
  • Any veggie-based cold pressed organic oil

In theory, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule. Lavender oil and tea tree oil are essential oils that are safe undiluted.

However, it is important to never use these two oils undiluted on children.

Finally, though it is safe to use tea tree oil undiluted on adults, it does cause a strong tingling sensation that may be uncomfortable.

Generally, it takes around 20 minutes an essential oil’s therapeutic properties to absorb into the through the skin.

Eventually, some of the oil’s compounds make it to the bloodstream where they will remain for around seven hours.

These compounds improve pain, inflammation, digestion, and aid in the functioning of the immune system.

Added bonus:

Since all essential oils are plant-based, they contain powerful antioxidants and other nutrients.


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Other equipment

Make sure that you have plenty of towels on hand. Sheets help keep the feet warm and also provide a convenient prop for positioning.

If you are more than a casual reflexologist, invest in a treatment table. A good treatment table makes the recipient feel more comfortable.

However, it also makes the practice much easier for you to perform the treatment. The last thing you want is to wind up with back pain.

A used treatment table in good condition costs between $100 and $150. However, static tables are cheaper than portable fold-up tables.

The thing is:

If you buy a static table you will need space to store it. 

drinking water

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Finally, make sure to have plenty of cold water handy. Ensure your client drinks water after any massage treatment. Water helps clear out the toxins released through massage.

Is Zone Therapy for You?

Generally, zone therapy or reflexology is very safe. Even for someone living with a serious health condition.

Because it is noninvasive and relaxing to receive, it is definitely worth trying. If you are interested in learning more, talk to an ayurvedic or holistic practitioner.

However, there are a few conditions that prevent the effectiveness. Do you have any of these conditions?

Let’s find out:

  • Circulation problems
  • Previous blood clots
  • Inflammation of your legs, ankles, or feet
  • Varicose veins or painful veins
  • Gout
  • Foot ulcers
  • Infections or athlete’s foot
  • Thyroid problems
  • Seizures or epilepsy
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Advanced pregnancy (past the first month)

If you have any of the conditions listed above, you should give your healthcare provider a call. Have a heart-to-heart conversation about trying reflexology.


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Tips for Talking to your Doctor

First of all, be prepared with research. Feel free to print this article to use as a reference. Let your doctor know that you are interested in reflexology as a form of complementary medicine.

More and more, traditional medicine is accepting of holistic treatments like acupuncture and reflexology. Share with your doctor, your realistic expectations from trying this therapy.

Some of the proven benefits include:

  • Relaxation
  • Control of pain
  • Improved sleep patterns
  • Treatment of nausea (especially after chemotherapy)
  • Better circulation

taking to doctor

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Getting to The Bottom of Things

It’s not completely understood how and why zone therapies like reflexology and acupressure work.

The most promising theory cites a nerve impulse ideology that proposes reflexology improves nerve conduction.

The autonomic nervous system or ANS controls your involuntary body functions like heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure.

The nerve impulse theory proposes that reflexology modulates this system.

Another plausible theory indicates that reflexology works by stimulating the release of endorphins.

Indeed, endorphins are natural chemical compounds known for making us feel good. Therefore, these brain chemicals effectively reduce pain and decrease the negative effects of stress.

As one review of literature aptly said, reflexology is the choice of so many people because it reliably improves health in terms of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

People choose reflexology because the treatment is drug- and chemical-free, and widely available for many health problems.

Furthermore, people continue to choose reflexology for its effectiveness in reducing pain and improving mobility. It’s well-regarded for the sense of relaxation it provides.


Finally, it is the go-to remedy to promote the injury recovery process.

Have you tried reflexology or other therapies involving foot pressure points? Drop us a comment below to let us know your experience.

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